Small Radio Chips used to Track Products-Truth!

Benetton, Gillette, and Other Companies Propose Use of Electronic Tags to Track Merchandise-Truth!

Summary of eRumor:
The eRumor says there is a threat to privacy through the intended use of small chips embedded in clothing and other products that can provide information about the products and their users wirelessly.
The Truth:
The use of RFID (radio frequency ID chips) provides easy wireless information from a relatively small and inexpensive device.  Many U.S. shoppers are familiar with the MobilExxon “SpeedPass,” for example.  It is a small key chain device that allows the user to make purchases that are charged to a credit card but without having to carry the credit card or exchange the actual credit card information.  The user merely holds the device near the pump and the information for the transaction is exchanged wirelessly.  Another use of the technology, such as by Benetton and Gillette, is to attach a small inexpensive chip to a product.  According to VigilantTV, Benetton intends to imbed the chips into collars or labels on clothing.  The stated purpose is for inventory and product control.  If it works well, the ease and accuracy of keeping track of product in large stores such as Wal-Mart will be sensational.  Privacy experts, however, fear the implications of the existence of such chips beyond the check-out counter.  The chips need to be within a few feet of a special receiver or reader in order to be useful, but could the receivers be placed in public places and you or information about you be gathered as you went through your day?  To avoid that, the experts say the chips should be disabled in some way at the point of purchase.  Some have said that there could be a booming business in devices that consumers could buy to disable the chips themselves.  Promoters of the technology say it will help companies track product through the manufacturing, shipping, and sales process.
Last updated 3/18/03